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A conversion is the most important non-default metric you can track in your PPC accounts. You will always need to identify and assign conversions and their accompanying values to understand whether or not your campaign is hitting the goal you set for it. Often, these conversion goals can be as straightforward as a signup or a purchase, but sometimes it’s just not that simple.

Sometimes you may find yourself working with a site or a client that has a more roundabout conversion or perhaps a site that defies traditional conversion capture. In these cases, you may want to think about using Event Goals through Google Analytics.

Why would you want to use Event Goals?

Not every client or company will have the same resources, so setting up meaningful onsite interaction goals through traditional conversion tracking or Google Analytics goals may not be feasible.

Here are a few examples where tracking Event Goals has been valuable:

1. Some sites may be static, and you won’t necessarily have developers at your disposal to work on your site.

2. You may want to track peripheral goals. For example, it may be useful to know how many people have clicked on your social links.

3. Perhaps other important events happen off the main site. I work with a client whose main goal happens on their main site, but we can only send traffic to a separate domain since development of the main site is too expensive.

4. If plays of a video or use of a calculator or other widget has direct impact on new business, you’ll still want to track this interaction and perhaps even assign a value to the event goal.

5. One client we work with has an ecommerce shop on a domain other than their main site. Their main goal of advertising is not to sell products direct, however this is a value add for the client and something worth tracking. Proving this value is much more easily done when we know which ads and which keywords are driving ecommerce value to the site.

Essentially, you want to track important onsite events in an environment you can control. If you can’t control the development environment, tracking Event Goals may be your best available substitute.

How do you set Google Analytics Event Goals up?

Setting up events in Google Analytics is fairly straightforward and will require that you have access to the website’s source code. You’ll want to categorize your different event triggers so that you can group your events when you set them up as goals. The Google Documentation on setting up events can help you and your development team figure out how to best implement event tracking for your unique circumstance.

I recommend using at least “Category”, “Action” and often times “Label” attributes to help distinguish your new events. There are no predefined naming conventions for the events you create, so it’s important to use naming conventions that will have use for both categorization and for easy understanding of what each event’s purpose is.

For example, your Category might be “social”, your action could be “click” and your labels could exist to define Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and any other applicable network that may be valuable for your business to track. If you’re only goal is to gain clicks to your Twitter, Facebook and Google+ profiles, you could easily make a Category for each social network as well. Keep it as simple as possible.

Once your events are set up on your site, you’ll begin capturing event data. You can see this by visiting the Content report in Google Analytics under the subheading Events. You can set up a goal in Google Analytics shortly after the data capture begins, so I like to expedite the process by going through the website and triggering all goals once the onsite setup is complete. This helps move things forward quickly and allows me to test and troubleshoot which events may not have been implemented correctly. The syntax of the code is very important, so if a comma or quote or space was missed, your goals will not register in Google Analytics properly.

To set up the goal in Analytics, navigate to the Admin, select your chosen profile and head to Goals. Name your goal, select Event as your Goal Type and configure your Goal with attributes like Category, Action, Label and Value. You need only use a single event condition for the Goals to begin tracking.

Brochures Download Goal Setup

For my purposes in the example above, I actually ended up leaving off the label attribute as we had other ways to see which product brochure was downloaded and we ended up with far too many unique labels to easily manage

When setting up your new Event Goals, it’s important to remember that you have a finite set of Google Analytics Goals to play with in any given profile. You can always drill down through the Content report and check out your standard website events, so for the purpose of Analytics Goals, you may want to group them together through the Category and Action only, or perhaps by using an additional GA profile to track specific sets of more complex goals.

What’s interesting is that Event Goals need to be triggered by an AdWords click before an Event Goal can be imported into your AdWords account. You can wait for these events to be triggered naturally over time, or again, you can expedite the process by clicking on your own ad and triggering all goals you wish to import. I recommend using a branded term or a low CPC click for this purpose.

Once all of you goals have been triggered through an AdWords click, they will be available for import into your AdWords account. To accomplish this, navigate to the “Tools and Analysis” from the main AdWords navigation. If your new goals have been setup properly and triggered after an AdWords click, then you should be greeted by a message alerting you that new conversions are ready to be imported. Click on the Import from Google Analytics option and add the new conversions you'd like to see in your AdWords account and you’re ready to roll.

Import From Google Analytics Icon

Your imported Google Analytics goals can also be used with both Enhanced CPC bidding and Conversion Optimizer, giving you additional flexibility and control over your personal campaign preferences. Unfortunately, however, you can only import these goals into the Google ecosystem. You’ll still need to run analytics reports to gain meaningful insight from your other PPC accounts, such as Bing Ads, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

Some additional thoughts:

1. You can always still do cross domain tracking, but not every company will have a developer to make things happen quickly or in the most logical way. Event Tracking Goals can give you a peek into aspects of your marketing that had traditionally been held in a black box.

2. Setting up event goals can impact your entire online marketing team. Don’t be shy; share your data. Setting up a use of a widget as a goal can have a profound effect on the understanding of marketing success.

Final Word

Internet marketing is already an extremely accountable advertising medium. We can make it even better at what it does best by using tools such Event Tracking and setting these Events as Google Analytics Goals. The insights you receive can better inform your actions and strategy while showing you and your team successes that you may not have otherwise thought was there.

This is a guest post by Nathan Pabich. Nathan is the Director of Paid Search at Digital Third Coast located in Chicago, Illinois. Nathan has been working in the search industry for the past 6 years, and was fortunate enough to be taught a thing or two early on by Brad Geddes. You can find Nathan on Google+.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Certified Knowledge. If you would like to write for Certified Knowledge, please let us know.


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